The Rule of Constantine

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The Rule of Constantine

The emperor Constantine has been called the most important emperor of the late antiquity. The many great events of his reign laid foundations that would affect the future of Europe and Western Civilization for centuries to come. His recognition and support of Christianity was one of the most important moments in world history. Moving the government of the Roman Empire to Constantinople and founding “New Rome” was one of the most significant decisions ever made by a Roman ruler. Ten emperors who reigned after Constantine took his name. This is just one more indication of his importance in history and the honor in which he was held by his people.

Of Constantine’s major accomplishments, the most important was his recognition of the Christianity. In 311 CE, he ordered the end of the persecution of Christians. On October 28, 312 CE, Constantine faced one of his greatest battles as he tried to consolidate his power. He was greatly outnumbered by the forces of Maxentius, who also wanted to be emperor. In a dream the night before the battle, Constantine saw the initials for the name of Christ as well as the cross and was told, “By this sign you will conquer.” The next morning, he had the initials painted on his helmet and ordered them to be painted on the shields of all his soldiers. Constantine’s forces won the day and he credited the Christian God with the victory. He was closer to his goal of absolute power as sole emperor of Rome was now, for all practical purposes, a Christian.

In 313 CE, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which allowed full freedom for Christians to practice their faith. The edict made Christianity equal to the religion of the Roman Empire.

The Edict of Milan also ordered the return of all church and personal property that had been taken during past persecutions of Christians. Constantine now gave imperial property to the church including the Lateran in Rome. On this site, one of the great cathedrals of Rome, St. John Lateran, still stands today.

Constantine not only recognized Christianity but made many contributions and enacted laws that helped it spread. He also became involved in Christianity. He felt that, as emperor, he had a responsibility to help and protect the faith. He also believed that all Christians should have the same beliefs. These concerns led to another of Constantine’s great accomplishment...

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...Most important was his relationship to Christianity. With the Edict of Milan, he made Christianity the major religion of the empire and began a time of amazing growth for the faith. He made many gifts of land and money to build churches and support the leaders of the church. With his support of the Council of Nicea, he helped to define what Christians believed. Because of Constantine, Christianity became the major religion of the Roman Empire and of western civilization. He also moved the permanent capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople, had many military victories that made the empire stronger, and had sons to follow him as emperor that could help keep the empire stable.

Constantine was one of the greatest of all the Roman emperors. His work, his decisions and his laws changed the Roman Empire and western civilization. Even today, the effects of his reign are felt since Christianity is still the major religion of the western world. There are very few people in history who did as much as he did and had such a major impact on the world. He was not a perfect human being and made many mistakes. His contributions, though, were much more important than his mistakes.
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